Alberta Looks To Dial Back Agriculture Spending

The Alberta government plans to pare back its spending on agriculture and rural development to about $1.14 billion in the coming year, down from its projected 2008-09 expenses of almost $1.4 billion.

That will include a net reduction of 91 employees, following both the province’s “value review” of the department and the establishment of the new Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), the provincial government said April 7.

But it’s also to include the new cattle price insurance program to be delivered by the province’s Agr icul ture Financial Services Corp. (AFSC) as part of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s $473 million budget for insurance programs.

Overall, Finance Minister Iris Evans said the province has budgeted for $36.4 billion in spending in 2009-10, leaving a deficit of $4.7 billion after reduced revenues of $31.7 billion.

Specifically, Evans has budgeted for $1.139 billion in spending for Agriculture and Rural Development in 2009-10, which is up from the 2008-09 budget of $1.012 billion but below forecast 2008-09 spending of $1.399 billion. The 2009-10 budget includes $1.083 billion in operating expenses and $55 million in debt servicing for AFSC.

The $473 million budgeted for insurance programs in 2009-10 is to include the introduction of AFSC’s voluntary Cattle Price Insurance Program, the first of its kind in Canada. The program is to be funded from producer premiums and is expected to help protect cattle operations from market price fluctuations.

Another $347 million is budgeted for agriculture income support, including $137 million in provincial contributions to the AgriStability program.

The province also expects that its 2008-09 Farm Recovery Plan, which paid out $300 million in emergency aid to the livestock industry, will have been “the last ad hoc assistance program for this sector.”

Beginning in 2009-10, the province said, ALMA is to be fully operational, with a program expense budget of $55 million and a focus on policy and programs to develop new markets, increase innovation and improve supply chain management in the livestock sector.

Restructuring due to ALMA will form part of an expected reduction of 91 jobs at AARD, bringing the ministry’s staff levels to about 1,660 employees overall.

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